Michael Matthews Sprints to Fifth in Tour of Beijing Opener

Fri 11 Oct 2013

Thor Hushovd (BMC) proved quickest in Huairou Studio City on the opening stage of the Tour of Beijing. Rewarded for his efforts with the race leader’s jersey, Hushovd overtook four frontrunners, including Michael Matthews, in his dash for the line. Matthews was the first to open his sprint following a well-organised lead-out from four of his teammates. The double Vuelta stage winner ultimately finished in fifth place on the stage.

“The team did a perfect job for me,” said Matthews. “In the end, I think I went a little early in the sprint. Usually from 200 to go, I’m pretty good. Today, there was a bit of a headwind, so it was pretty easy to stay on someone’s wheel while they were sprinting. If I was to do it again, I would delay the sprint until a little bit later.”

The early action was predictable. Four riders jumped away from the bunch when the flag dropped. Willem Wauters (Vacansoleil-DCM), Sander Cordeel (Lotto-Belisol), Davide Vigano (Lampre Merida) and Ryota Nishizono (Champion Systems) quickly opened a nine minute advantage over the peloton.

Initially, and Cannondale led the chase. Their efforts steadily ate into the break’s advantage. When the quartet’s advantage dropped below three minutes, Nishizono jumped up the road. Cordeel countered Nishizono’s attempt, successfully riding himself of his breakmates.

BMC took over at the head of affairs to keep Cordeel’s solo move in check. Five kilometres from the finish, the peloton was back together and the sprint trains readied for the anticipated bunch kick. With the finish looming, Matthews followed his teammate’s wheels up the right side of the road.

“Leigh Howard was meant to be here with the team,” noted Matthews. “He got ill leading into this race, so I had to take over all the sprints. This wasn’t the perfect sprint for me, but you’ve always got to try in these sort of races. Maybe you can pull it off or maybe you can’t. It’s always practice in the end.”

Matthews was the first to open his sprint. Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma Quick-Step) matched Matthews’ turn of speed. One hundred metres from the finish, it appeared as if the Australian and Italian would battle for the stag win. A stiff headwind slowed their efforts and allowed Mezgec, Maes and Hushovd to overtake Matthews and Petacchi before the line.

“I think there are another couple of chances to come,” said Matthews. “Hopefully I can get a win for the boys because they’ve been doing an awesome job for me.”